Music I Love

So  I thought I’d do a slightly different post for today and veer away from books and writing and talk about some music and artists I love. I have certain musicians that I always come back to time and again and I thought I’d give them a little bit of love on here.

Walk Off the Earth 

This is one of my absolute favourite groups to exist, honestly. They’re unique and their songs are just incredible. Many of them tackle deeper issues with their catchy, upbeat tunes (though their latest – ‘Taekwondo’ – is just a love song (thought I’d put money that it’s them partially making a joke about conventional romantic songs)). I have followed this band since their ‘5 peeps 1 guitar‘ video went viral a good few years ago and I can’t recommend them enough. If I manage to have half as much fun as it looks like they have in my future, I will be living a good life. I am impatiently awaiting UK tour dates…

Lucy Spraggan

I saw her live back in February and she was phenomenal. She was on the X Factor a good few years ago and since then she has released three albums, the latest on her own label. If I’m honest, I’m glad she left the x factor (due to illness I should add) because she is not the generic pop artist that succeed on that show (nothing wrong with them but Lucy has the most incredible talent) as she writes her own songs and they tell magnificent stories. ‘Tea and Toast’ was sung on the show, but ‘Dear You‘ was one of her most powerful (listening to her sing it live choked me up).

Oh Wonder

These guys are the ones I quite often go to when I write, as their music is calming but wonderful. I’m seeing them at uni in November and I can’t wait, although I’ve yet to listen to their newest album for some reason. If you want something raw and unique, these guys are the ones to listen to.

Amy Macdonald 

I have distinct memories of listening to her original album on the way to Scotland for a family holiday years and years ago. To this day, I still love that album. She’s got four out now, and her voice is so unique and distinctive, I just love it. I also remember all of the words to ‘Mr Rock and Roll‘ without shame. She’s another brilliant songwriter and just worth a listen.

The Piano Guys

These. I get goosebumps when I listen to their phenomenal arrangements of both pop and classical songs. I have seen them live twice, the second time in the Royal Albert Hall, which was amazing. Quite a few people have pulled a face when I’ve mentioned the word classical, but then have gone on to say that they enjoy what these guys do with music. I discovered these the same day I discovered WOTE (a good day for music for me!) and haven’t looked back. They came up in the recommendations on youtube as they do 5 people one piano, playing ‘What Makes you Beautiful‘ (even if you hate One Direction please, this is incredible!).

Collabro

If you enjoy musical theatre, you must try listening to Collabro. Their covers of musical theatre songs made the hairs stand up on my arms, even more so when I heard them live. Here’s the link to ‘Memory‘ from Cats, one of my all time favourite songs from one of my favourite musicals. The first time I heard them sing on Britain’s Got Talent, they sung Stars from Les Mis, which I swear is one of the reasons I love their music so much as that is probably my favourite musical theatre song full stop.

Frank Turner

You can blame Hannah completely for my love for Frank Turner. I went to a gig of his at uni with her and he was just absolutely fantastic and from then on I’ve been listening to his music. He’s another super talented musician and is brutally honest in his songs (which I love). I’m so so glad that I’ve been introduced to his music as it’s exactly the kind of sound I enjoy and I will continue to listen to him for a long time.

As you can tell, I tend to listen to a variety and there aren’t really any ‘mainstream’ artists in this list. I prefer musicians who write their own songs mainly, but also something that is unique. I had the music TV channel on a while ago and all of the chart toppers sounded identical to me, and not the kind of music I particularly like. If you love chart music then great! Which are your favourite songs?

A New Writing Project and What I’m Doing Differently

So I’ve tried writing a number of things before but I always end up reverting back to poetry. Poetry is what I’ve always written (though not necessarily well), and it’s definitely my comfort zone. However, I have made several attempts at novels, which usually just fizzle out before I even manage halfway.

So I’ve had one novel on the go for nearly two years now; I started it during NaNoWriMo of 2015. I’m at 43,000 words, which is the most I’ve ever got with a novel, and I also love the idea. The problem? I just don’t know where to go with it at this point in the plot. Something needs to happen, but I just can’t think of anything that is worthwhile. The writing itself is poor as well; it’s slow, choppy, and I change my mind mid sentence so often that it would be impossible for anyone other than myself to read it. This will all be sorted out in editing though, so I told myself it doesn’t matter at this point. Realistically, it doesn’t but it’s another thing to think about when I’m writing.

Instead then, of putting it off repeatedly and in fact getting nothing written whatsoever, I have made the conscious decision to put it on the back burner for a while. Whilst some people I imagine would struggle with this idea, it’s definitely the right one for me if I want to actually get writing again – which I desperately do. I had some characters and thoughts in my head for another project, this one a YA contemporary instead of adult dystopian, so I decided to build on them, and build on them I have.

I spent a lot of time developing the characters and their families, adding diversity to the cast and uniqueness to individual characters. I feel as though the uniqueness can be worked on, but I’ve not quite finished planning and I do feel as though smaller details will be added when I’m writing it properly as they always do. However, I’ve made sure to plan development and changes as those often go forgotten as I write.

Planning is the big change I’ve made with this project and the one I’ve put aside. This time I’ve made sure to plan each chapter in detail, and instead of writing ‘talk about x’, I’ve actually made a note of what to say. There are a couple of details that I haven’t quite worked out yet, but I’ll either go back to them before or as I write (when I say minor details they are things like the colour of something etc). With my other project, I’d plan a few chapters ahead and very vaguely, so I had an idea of what was coming but after that I had to go back to planning. I thought this worked for me – and to an extent it did – as there were things I just hadn’t thought of that I thought of later which really added to the plot and took the narrative in a new direction. But it obviously doesn’t truly work because I just stopped. I couldn’t think of anything and I stopped. Lesson learned there, and when I decide eventually where to take it, I will plan the rest a lot more thoroughly.

I’m hoping that because my plan is so detailed, once I finish it, I will be able to get the first draft finished fairly quickly. I’m not necessarily a fast writer and can’t write 10,000 words in a day, but it shouldn’t take me nearly two years. I’ve spent a while on this plan, and I’m not quite finished with it (I’ve got about four chapters left), and I had originally planned to keep it around 40,000 words and a novella. I made the mistake of adding a major plot point in what should have been the penultimate chapter though, so it’s become a novel! It does make the story a lot better though so I’m not complaining. I’m aiming for around 2,500 words per chapter, for reference, though some of the plans make me think that this may be exceeded!

Are there any tips that you have when it comes to planning? I seem to have gone from one extreme (barely planning) to another (massively detailed planning), but I’m hoping it works.

Also, have a cute picture of my dogs swimming when we were on holiday because I didn’t know what picture to take for this post!

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YALC 2017

I had such an amazing time at YALC, it was my first time going and I went with my best friend Hannah (She has a blog and youtube). It ran from the 28th-30th July, and we had three day passes, and I am now absolutely exhausted after it!

Friday 28th

My train left my hometown at 7:08am, so needless to say it was an early start for me (5:30 was when my alarm went off!). I got to Olympia, where YALC was held, for about 9:15 though, so that wasn’t too bad. Hannah arrived not long after and we headed in straight away to get our wristbands. Because we were in quite early we got a YALC tote bag with various samplers and goodies in, which we got signed by the authors across the weekend. We both also bought lanyards to pin the badges that we had on, as most stands were giving away free badges!

We started off the signings with Hannah Witton, and proceeded to get so many signatures that I honestly can’t remember the order. A highlight was being Katherine Webber’s first YALC signing as I absolutely adored her book Wing Jones (I’d highly, highly recommend it!).

We also went for a wander around all of the stalls, looking at all of the free samplers and merch they were giving out. From the Fairyloot stall I got a candle (and a cushion cover on the Saturday). There were all sorts of competitions and things going on to get various arcs, one of which I won – I had to put a picture on twitter using a hashtag and they picked a winner at the end of the day (I won an arc of Things a Bright Girl Can Do).

We stayed in an airbnb for the first night, which was basic but had everything we needed and we just headed back to get an early night as we were both exhausted!

Saturday 29th

We headed out pretty early and got to YALC not long after it had opened, after stopping for breakfast on our walk there. It was easier to get in this time as we already had our wristbands, and we went straight in, wandering around the stalls (and Waterstones), and planning who to meet.

Hannah and I popped down to Comic-con for a little while, though I was very out of my depth as I have little interest in pretty much everything comic-con focuses on! It was still great to see however, especially seeing the effort that went into people’s cosplay. Would I go just for comic-con? No. Am I glad I have been? Yes.

We also met Sanne from the channel booksandquills (which I adore) and I’m quite proud I approached her, as I was too scared to approach other youtubers! She seemed so friendly (and indeed turned out to be once we spoke to her!) which made me more comfortable, and I’m so so glad we said hi as she was so lovely and had a picture with us.

V. E. Schwab and Laini Taylor were both signing on this day, and as Hannah was participating in a competition I met them to get our books signed. Later that day, they were part of a panel called ‘Books That Made Me’, which was really great to listen to (especially listening to V. E. Schwab basically fangirling over and recounting her stories of meeting Neil Gaiman).

Straight after the panel, Non Pratt shaved her head for charity, which was hilarious to watch as everyone was having a laugh. Not only that, but Benedict Cumberbatch walked in part way through and looked very bemused!

Sunday 30th

I started off the sunday alone at YALC as Hannah was at a baking event as part of her prize for the mentioned competition. The previous night we’d stayed in a fancy hotel courtesy of MyKindaBook (as part of Hannah’s prize) and it was gorgeous!

I went to a lot of signings in the morning, and generally wandered around for a bit, somehow managing to get myself an arc of The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven which I desperately wanted and had been trying to get all weekend. (I’ve started it already and it’s so so fab).

I got Countless signed by Karen Gregory, which was a book I adored and really hoped to get signed, and I also got a load signed by Non Pratt (two for Hannah and three for me – I’d got Truth or Dare signed on the Friday), and honestly she was one of the nicest people I think I have ever met. She was super chatty, which was lovely as I was on my own and can be a bit shy, and just generally seemed to be a lovely person (although pretty much everyone there seemed to be!).

Hannah joined me at around 1:30 ish (honestly I can’t really remember) – just after I’d met Sarah Crossan and gushed about how much I love her writing (oops) – bearing brownies, so we grabbed some drinks, nachos, and seats and took a moment from the crowds. We went to a few more signings; Moira Fowley-Doyle (who was so lovely – again), and Patrick Ness, who was the big name of the Sunday. We were lucky as they were handing out tickets with numbers on and we were fairly early on in the queue, and I know it got very long just in the short while we were watching them give them out. Patrick Ness was great, and as we finished up at YALC so early we went back down to comic-con to have a better look around. I still felt like a fish out of water, but it was quieter so much, much nicer to wander around and take it all in!

Thoughts

YALC was genuinely such an amazing experience and I’m so glad I went. I’m also very glad I took a large suitcase that was very empty on my way down because I gained / bought so many books whilst there (oops). It was fantastic to meet so many authors of books that I’d loved, and the community feel was strong, I noticed how everyone was comfortable and happy, which was so so good.

Hannah and I are already hoping to go next year (though for two or three days depends on whether I manage to get an internship or not!), and we’ve definitely learned a lot about what to do, how to organise it etc. Whether I could have managed a fourth day, I highly doubt, as I was absolutely exhausted – I got home at nearly 10pm on the Sunday night. It’s extremely intense for the three days, but so worth it.

You can view my book haul from YALC over on my Youtube channel: https://youtu.be/I6X_QfZ_hUU

Ten Writing Prompts

As part of my creative writing course, we had to create our own writing prompts. I felt pretty proud of mine, so I thought I’d share them with you!

  1. In a public place, create a story from the first thing you hear someone say.
  2. Avoid using punctuation (except that which changes the word, like an apostrophe).
  3. Write a conversation without direct speech.
  4. Look on your local ‘buy and sell’ page, write something about an item listed.
  5. Write about what frustrates you.
  6. Create a menu without naming any foods.
  7. Pick an emotion and describe it. Once done, write it again, but opposite (i.e. if your chosen emotion was negative, then the rewrite will be positive).
  8. Write about something human that you can’t see, e.g. electricity, wi-fi.
  9. Find an old Facebook post. Write as you did then.
  10. Make the most boring thing you can think of interesting.

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Finally have a picture that I took at uni as a prompt!

Christmas and Birthday Book Haul

I got a few books for christmas and my birthday (the 29th) and so I want to share them with you. I also bought a few on my birthday / with my birthday money and so I’ll list those too! There are a fair few for christmas because my family like to ask what we want, so I always ask for certain books, I’m not going to list who they’re from but if you happen to read this and you gave me one / some… thank you!

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Christmas

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue

The Sellout – Paul Beatty

Hot Milk – Deborah Levy

Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh

All That Man Is – David Szalay

His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrea Burnet

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien

Half of a Yellow Moon, Purple Hibiscus, Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Submarine – Joe Dunthorne

Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh

The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell

Burmese Days – George Orwell

On Writing – Stephen King

Jane Austen Boxed Set

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Birthday

White Teeth – Zadie Smith

The Art of Fiction – John Gardner

The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell

The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

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Purchased on My Birthday

Les Misérables – Victor Hugo (I bought a pretty edition – I did already have a copy of this)

The Casual Perfect – Lavinia Greenlaw

The Beach – Alex Garland

God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut

 

Ebooks Purchased

(these were all on offer – £1.19 was the most I paid for one of the books, the rest were less)

The Dark Days Club – Alison Goodman

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

This Savage Song – V. E. Schwab

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls – Lynn Weingarten

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

We All Looked Up – Tommy Wallach

 

 

My 2017 Goals

(I’m just noting here that my five books I want to read this year will be going up soon however two of the books are at uni and so I want to take a photo of all five for the post!)

Reading Goals

  • Read 25 books – I’ve set my goodreads goal pretty low this year, as last year it was 75. However last year I started well but never actually achieved my goal (I read 71), and spent the whole year feeling guilty if I picked up a longer book. A Little Life was incredible, but I’ve never felt so guilty about reading a book I truly loved, and I definitely don’t want to feel that way again.
  • Read longer books – This is the main reason I wanted to set a lower goodreads goal, I have so many, especially as I didn’t pick them up in 2016, but they look absolutely amazing.
  • Don’t feel pressured to read – Okay, so when it comes to uni books, I probably need to feel more pressured, but I’m focusing here on reading for pleasure. I found myself last year choosing books because of their length and not because I genuinely wanted to read them, and again, I don’t want to feel that way this year.

Blogging / Youtube Goals

  • Post once a week minimum – last week I aimed too high with three times a week and fell completely on my face. This year I’m aiming to post every thursday (this may change in september with my new timetable but for the first half of 2017 thursday should be okay) and then build it up if I have extra posts. I’d love to post three times a week but sometimes it’s not possible and I feel bad if I don’t.
  • Post wrap ups and hauls on Youtube – planning, filming, editing and uploading a video every week is just too much for me to manage as I have a busy schedule and other things that must take priority. However, I do enjoy making videos and so I’m hoping to try to film more. I may or may not write a post on the changes I plan to make regarding my youtube videos, but as yet I’m not sure if I will. If I don’t, expect them to be more vlog-style.

Uni Goals

  • Read all of my texts on time – Pretty self explanatory but last semester / term I failed miserably, being a fresher is surprisingly hectic and I found myself regularly going to the lecture or seminar with half a text (if any) read. This has to change!

 

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(I didn’t know what picture to opt for with this post so have this pretty one of my uni that I took in autumn)

 

Recommendations: Contemporaries

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I love contemporary books, it’s one of my favourite genres. Summer is the perfect time to read them, though they’re the type of book that I pick up all year round, and I thought that I’d share some of my favourites (these are not in an order). Any that I have reviewed should be linked.

I nearly missed this off my list… How? HOW?! It’s amazing and perfect and ugh.

  • Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After – Stephanie Perkins

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about them already, but they really are fabulous.

  • One – Sarah Crossan

This made me cry, it’s so wonderful.

This was such a gorgeous story.

One of my favourites of last year.

  • Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

I’m so looking forward to finishing this trilogy.

  • Since You’ve Been Gone, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone is my favourite of the two, but Morgan Matson is fast becoming one of my favourite writers, I can’t wait to read her other two.

This was such a wonderful read.

  • Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

I think everyone has heard of or read this, but it deserves the hype.

  • Faceless – Alyssa Sheinmel

There is very little romance in this, and it was so refreshing.

I loved the characters in this novel and also the narration is unique and interesting.

Have you read any contemporaries that you’ve enjoyed? Let me know!